Casey Horan, the Lamp director, said the use of Lamp members and other skid row residents in the movie has been a success in two ways. Countless members of the cast and crew have told her their lives have been transformed by the privilege of getting to know so many inspirational people. And many of those people have appreciated being heard, embraced and treated with dignity.
I don't know exactly what to expect as the story reaches a broader audience, or how Mr. Ayers will react to the attention, and I worry about it every day.
But I also know he appreciates being recognized as a man defined by something other than an illness, and maybe one day he will clear the hurdles and painful memories that so far have prevented him from considering treatment and medication.
In some ways, it's as if the career he never had is happening now, and nothing means more to him -- or has been as helpful in his gradual recovery -- than the way he has been accepted back into the fraternity of musicians by his many friends in the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Cellists Peter Snyder and Ben Hong, violinist Robert Gupta, pianist Joanne Pearce Martin and publicist Adam Crane all clear time from busy schedules to hang out with him, knowing that music is his medicine and Disney Hall is his hospital. I just wish Pearce Martin hadn't told him about her sky diving experiences, because that's now next on Mr. Ayers' list of things to do -- just when he was beginning to get his golf stroke down.
Last week, after we watched a matinee concert at Disney Hall, Mr. Ayers went across the street and began playing the violin, one of several instruments he's tried to learn since giving up the string bass because it was too big for a shopping cart. His friends from the orchestra trooped over to join him, and Gupta, a 20-year-old phenom who joined the orchestra at 19, got out his own violin and played along with Mr. Ayers.
My friend has a long way to go, in more ways than one. But he is patient and steadfast, and the music that afternoon was a balm, filled as usual with passion, promise and hope.